Published on October 26th, 2017 | by admin
Daniel Crispin Interview (Acrobat on TORUK – The First Flight)
How did you become involved with Cirque du Soleil?
It has always been my career goal and dream to work at Cirque du Soleil. Even prior to my professional training when I was an overzealous, somewhat uncoordinated kid, I loved the circus and all things acrobatic. Towards the end of high school when I really began taking performance seriously, I realized that I was able to make a career out of being a circus acrobat. The tipping point was when I was backpacking through the United States and I passed through Las Vegas. I used my very little amount of 18 year-old backpacking savings to see the Cirque du Soleil show ‘O’. It blew my mind. That was the moment in which I said to myself, ‘I am going to do this for a living’. I moved back to Australia and auditioned for the National Institute of Circus Arts (NICA) in Melbourne and commenced a 3 years Bachelor of Circus Arts course. It was the definitive shaping of my life. I chose specialties that had me taught by one of the world’s greatest coaches in Chinese circus apparatus, Guang Ring Lu (O.A.M). I graduated on scholarship in 2010 and in that final week of school, we had a Cirque du Soleil audition at NICA. While I was exhausted from an intense week of shows and graduation, we had a 12 hour rigorous audition which tested everything from physical strength, personalities, dance, drama, acrobatic skills, coach-ability as an artist and our individual disciplines. Following this I checked my email every morning as soon as I woke up, sometimes in the middle of the night too and fortunately I made it into the casting database. That can sometimes have a slow burn until a fitting role comes up that you are suited. For me, it took 5 years. Thankfully those 5 years prior were filled with international touring and creations which helped to shape me into the artist I have now become.
Do you have a favourite Cirque du Soleil performance?
TORUK – The First Flight, of course! But there are certainly some shows that are very special to me, such as Luzia, Kurios, Alegria and of course O.
When you were offered the role in TORUK – The First Flight, how did you react?
I was in Dubai working on another project. They asked me to send a series of video audition tasks (drama, movement skills improvisation tasks, monologues and specific skills). I had 5 days to put all of this together, while performing in another show, so time was not on my side. However, I made the best submission possible and within a week I had my mobile phone, skype, Facebook and email all coming at me to deliver the news. I ended up standing outside of theatre looking at the Burj Al Arab (one of Dubai’s luxury hotels), holding my laptop in the air like a lunatic trying to get a WIFI signal when the talent scout told me I had been selected for the show. He then informed me that I had been selected as the principal character. I tried to play it cool, but he could see I was overjoyed! When the call ended, I couldn’t call home fast enough to share the news. I had just lost a family member, so it was very welcomed news to my loved ones and support network who helped me achieve such an amazing dream.
Have you seen the original AVATAR and do you think this has helped with your performance?
I have seen AVATAR so many times. During creation of the show, whenever I was on my own, I would have the film running in the background. It served as such a great reference guide as to the nuances of the Na’vi and their philosophies and ways of movement. Our show is set many years before human being set foot on Pandora so we all play Na’vi, and had to learn how to move, think, speak, and basically become Na’vi. It also helped infinite amounts with the dialogue. Learning a language that has been created entirely for a fictional world is very difficult, so being able to see the actors in the film speak the text helped develop our own phonetics around the dialogue. It also helped that Sam Worthington (the actor who plays Jake Sully in AVATAR) is Australian so our accents are similar when speaking in Na’vi.
What does TORUK – The First Flight mean to you?
TORUK is an amazing narrative with incredible visuals and acrobatics. Thematically it underlies the true essence of friendship and trusting yourself and those close to you. It helps us remember that we are all connected and there is an absolute necessity for respect for ourselves, each other and the planet in which we inhabit.
Can you tell us what your role is in TORUK?
I play a principal character called Entu, who is a 15-year-old orphaned boy. He is an intrepid adventurer, but doesn’t quite have the footing to always land with the same grace as the other Na’Vi and in turn, sometimes is the loveable reject. Entu was such an interesting character to create as he had a very different character background which changed his attitudes, values and beliefs. At first, I likened him to the misbehaving kid in the classroom, who didn’t cause any real trouble but was just very cheeky. Throughout the creation process and the tour on the road, I have felt the role grow and have added many layers of depth to his character. It’s a great feeling to be able to start from scratch and grow in front of the audience each night. I think one of the biggest shows of these layers are in my solo aerial piece. It is a moment in the show when the entire stage is empty and there are 4 minutes of aerial straps which shows a layer of complexity, depth and skill to his character. It is exhausting, but even James Cameron said it is such an important moment in the show to deliver that complexity of character. That was quite an honor!
Tell us a little about your training for TORUK?
There were a few phases of training leading up to the show being put on stage. We had our own individual training in which we were asked to work on particulars before arriving in Montreal. For me that was martial arts, straps, tumbling, character and comedy work and as much general circus arts as possible. Once we arrived in Montreal, it was a big collaboration of everyone’s talents until it was refined into the different acts and tribes. (We have 5 Na’vi clans in the show). On top of all these specialist training, we also have to continually work on our own strength and conditioning programs so that we are able to perform in peak condition every night. This varies from person to person. Some need more flexibility, others need more strength training. Thankfully, we have two full-time physiotherapists, a head coach, and a catering team which help us stay in the best condition we can. Then there is also each person’s pre-performance routines, which can vary from stretching, weights, theraband and rehearsing acts.
Biggest challenge as an acrobat?
Being away from family and friends is hard at times. You miss a lot of important chapters in people’s lives; kids being born and growing up, friends getting married, and that feeling of being at home with the creature comforts of family and friends. That and muscle soreness. Something is always sore or aching, but that’s part of being a circus artist! There is an old saying my teacher at NICA used to say : “If you wake up and you’re not hurting, you’re probably dead”. It makes me laugh, but there is a little truth to it!
What about most rewarding?
Making thousands of people happy while doing what I love the most. It’s a truly amazing feeling. Not to mention we get to travel the world with our closest friends and experience incredible cultures together, while performing what we love.
You’ve got a diverse background from surfing to martial arts, how do you incorporate these elements in acrobatics?
Taekwondo is a very acrobatic type of martial arts. My upbringing in the discipline gave me quite a wide variety of dynamic kicks and flips. I loved competition, but I really loved being on the demonstration team. It was evident early on that I was very good at stunt and stage fighting, great at performing fights and well… at getting thrown around! This transferred right into acrobatics, especially in slapstick comedy. It resonates a lot with my character in TORUK as Entu is a little bit goofy and takes a lot of falls. Paired with my acrobatic training at NICA, it has continued to get better and better with time. As for surfing, it is a lot more of a therapeutic pass time. When you’re in the ocean, you are totally unplugged from the rest of the world. You enjoying some time in nature. It’s a healthy way to stay fit, relax and adapt to whatever the ocean sends your way (ideally it just throws great waves and not any sharks!).
What’s your top three highlights of Toruk?
That’s a tough question. There have been so many amazing highlights during this time. Being a part of a Cirque du Soleil show from creation as a principal character and being able to perform my solo act is certainly a high point. Being on the show poster is awesome too :) Working with James Cameron and the Cirque du Soleil team creating the show while touring has been incredible and I am very much looking forward to performing back in Australia in front of friends and family!
Thanks again for your time and all the best for the Australian tour of Cirque du Soleil Toruk the First Flight!
An absolute pleasure! Thanks for having me :)
Tickets for TORUK – The First Flight
Rod Laver Arena Melbourne, VIC
Nov 2-12, 2017